The people at Tuckahoe Bikes, which has shops in that town and two of its Cape May County neighbors - Ocean City and Sea Isle City - use a new word to talk about a common repair job they're doing these days.

The word is "Sandied," and it's a verb. Now here's Tom Downs, a manager, using it in a sentence.

"How many bikes you think we've Sandied?" Downs asked a co-worker the other day - meaning how many bicycles have the shops fixed up to repair damage caused by Hurricane Sandy's flooding last October.

The answer, which Downs relayed, was about 400. But that's just so far. Tuckahoe Bikes has a three-week waiting list of repair orders, the manager adds.

Bike shops, and bike owners, all around the Sandy-swamped shore have similar stories, if not all the same simple shorthand. And more of those sad stories are coming out now, as the biking season gets rolling on local Boardwalks and roads, and more owners of second homes take a second look - or even a first look - at what the hurricane did to their garages, utility rooms and other first-floor places where people tend to keep their bikes.

Howard Rush, of Ventnor, had his dream bike - "The first present I ever bought myself," he said, of the Specialized-brand, year-old, lightweight road bike he stored in his garage, just off the bay, with a few sets of lesser family wheels.

But when that garage flooded with 3-plus feet of saltwater, Rush's dream bike got a bath all the way up to its handlebars. His bicycle doctor, a guy he trusts completely, had to pronounce the machine dead.

"He needed every single thing," explained Mike Wiesen, of Ventnor's AAAA Bike Shop. "The salt got to the (wheel) rims, where all the spokes were breaking. Just the rims would have cost $400 to replace - that's a very conservative estimate."

Mike Cahill, a Ventnor firefighter, had a bigger batch of two-wheeled troubles. He and his wife have four kids, and in the storm, the family got 3 feet of water in their Ventnor Heights living room. So after the storm, among their other losses, they had six bikes to replace.

A very generous relative bought Christmas bikes for the kids, and Mike got one for his wife.

"But my bike is still a rusted hulk in the backyard," he said, adding in the big picture of storm damage - which included him losing thousands of dollars worth of construction equipment for his second job - the bike bill is pretty small potatoes. "I'm going to have to get one for myself when I get around to it."

Many Boardwalk bike riders may have assumed their wheels survived the storm, because when the hurricane was gone, their bikes were still going. The pedals still pedaled, the chain still turned and the wheels still rolled, even if all the above probably felt somewhat sluggish.

But professional mechanics say those bikes are living a lie - and they'll likely stop living it at some point. No, bikes don't have engines that saltwater flooding will kill instantly and dramatically, but they do have wheel bearings that can and will lock up, or seize, and stop the wheels from rolling.

"Everyone that has already had (wheels) lock up believes it," said John Johnson, of All About Bikes N Wheels in Brigantine. "Other people don't, they think you're just spinning a tale. OK, it's moving today, but no one truly knows - will it go a week, or two months, or how long?"

Johnson has "replaced more bearings since Sandy than I have in the past 10 years," he says. "And when I take (the wheels) apart, it's like mud in there. The grease is destroyed. ... It's no longer grease, I don't know what to call it except it looks like actual mud."

He thinks some of that muddy gunk is sand the water picked up as it rolled over beaches and through the streets and lawns on the way into the garages where it wrecked the bikes.

Surf Buggy Bike Shop has two locations on Long Beach Island, and owner Doug Lawver knows the pain of losing previously perfectly good bikes to flooding. He had made sure to move most of his stock, including rental bikes, to his Surf City location before the storm hit, because it's in a high spot. But after the shop in Brant Beach got 3 feet of Sandy water, he had to trash "about 15 or 20 bikes," he said.

His stores have also gotten the same rush of repairs as his colleagues out of the storm.

"We're seeing lots of hub overhauls, bottom bracket overhauls - just tons of sand in all those areas," Lawver said. "We're even seeing chains going."

And if the damage reached a certain level, "We've had to tell some people that it's not worth it to fix it. It's cheaper for them to buy new than fix it."

Back in Ventnor, Wiesen adds that brake cables can also rust and freeze - which could obviously be dangerous if it happened at the wrong time. Then again, a wheel locking up while you're riding 15 mph in traffic could be a pretty serious situation too.

He also has had to advise too many of his customers that it's not worth it to them to pay him to fix their flooded bikes.

"I tell people, 'If it's sentimental to you, I'll do anything you want me to do. But if it's just a numbers game, it doesn't make sense to fix this,'" Wiesen said.

Howard Rush, Wiesen's customer, decided to follow that advice. He just got his new dream bike two weeks ago - the same model as the late, lamented one, just a different color.

And it's worth it to him to have a good bike, says Rush, 63, who runs Classic Cake, a bakery that sells its cheesecakes and other desserts to Atlantic City's casinos, among other customers.

On a spring day that finally warmed up a bit on his local Boardwalk, Rush ran into a neighborhood buddy, Tony Gavin. They talked a bit about some of the world's troubles, and then Rush had a question:

"How does it get better?" he asked, but not because he wanted an answer.

"I'll tell you how it gets better - when I get on my bike and ride," he went on. "When I get on this bike, I feel like I'm 30."

Contact Martin DeAngelis:

609-272-7237